Stir Crazy

Miss Malaga

It’s almost to the day one year ago that I flew to Sweden from Malaga, Spain. We’d been living there for just two months when we realized that this whole pandemic thing was not to be taken lightly and that it would likely have a very negative financial impact on our livelihoods. I jumped ship first and Charlotte followed a few weeks later.

Do I miss Malaga? Absolutely. I miss the cafés, tiny tapas hideaways, and soaking in the sun from our rooftop terrace. I miss seeing people on the streets, hanging out with friends, and taking a long walk ending in a cozy lunch in the old fishing village Pedregalejo. I miss going out for drinks with friends Sam and Sirpa, feeling untethered and unworried. I miss shopping at Mercado Central de Atarazanas, the old market where so much great food was beautifully displayed and reasonably priced. I miss drinking a glass of a caña, a cold beer under a huge umbrella or palm tree on the way to or from a shopping tour.

For close to 25 years, Charlotte and I have been the architects, the designers, the conductors of our lives. And I miss that too. But I don’t feel sorry for myself. Nor does Charlotte. Instead, we feel appreciative of both what we’ve had and what is here and now. The future may not look so bright right at the moment. But eventually, someday, we will return to Malaga, drink a couple of cold cañas, and munch unabashedly from a large bowl of those huge, sumptuous green olives from one of my favorite shops at Mercado Central.

The above image was captured in Malaga, somewhere near our apartment. Which, incidentally, I don’t miss.

Passport

Passport to the World

I’ve been going through a bunch of old stuff since returning to Vejbystrand on Saturday. I brought with me three jam-packed binders with all kinds of ancient letters, travel memorabilia, odd concert receipts and even drawings from when I was a child back in 1968.

I don’t know what’s more impressive, the fact that I saved it all to begin with, or, that it’s survived all the moves I made on my own and all the addresses Charlotte and I have had since we met in 1996. While not exactly meticulously categorized, all of it is neatly placed inside transparent pockets. It really boggles my mind that I had the wherewithal to salvage so much of my history. I am above all happy for Elle. I don’t think she’s as confused about who her father is as I am about mine. But if she does read through some of my letters and those sent to me, including a rather lengthy, deep email exchange between me and a philosopher I was subbing at a high school for in Göteborg in the early 1990s.

Among the most interesting memorabilia is one of my old US passports. I became a dual citizen in 1998 or 1999 and most of the stamps are from the late 1980s or early 1990s. I’d almost forgotten how much I’d traveled before meeting Charlotte. So much so that in New Zealand, I had to ask the US consulate in Auckland to add a few pages to my almost fully stamped passport just to cover my onward trips to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand that year.

For about half a decade, I was a seasonal restaurant worker: winters in northernmost Sweden at Hotel Riksgränsen, summers in Visby (on the island of Gotland) at various watering holes. Most of the fall and beginning of winter I was traveling in Asia or the US. Rinse and repeat.

I remember how some immigration officers refused to place their country’s entry stamp or visa document next to a nation they weren’t on good terms with or, just didn’t like. Traveling between mainland China and Taiwan could me you might have to sacrifice two separate passport pages.

It’s going to be interesting to see if the yellow vaccination cards make a comeback or if future passports will be forced to include verifiable verification about inoculations. At this stage, traveling still seems like a distant dream.

For some of my favorite travel assignments, head on over to www.raboffphotography.com and click on “TRAVEL”.

Vejbystrand Sea Skaters

From earlier today during a slow wintery walk along the coast. I wish I had brought the drone with me…but even more, I wish I could take part in the skating fun. My joints are too stiff and fragile for that kind of activity right now, but I’m sure that if I’d still had my ice skates, I’d probably be willing to take the risk. Happy for all the kids that get to experience a real winter here in Skåne and to see what it’s like when the sea freezes.

Malmö

Quick Visit to Malmö

Our view last night during Charlotte’s and my sunset walk. It’s one of those shots that I wish I had taken with a proper camera, as opposed to a two-year-old iPhone. There’s nothing wrong with the composition. But the dynamic range and color reproduction is way, way off. I literally held my x100v in my hand heard myself saying, nah, I don’t need to carry this in my pocket, there’s not going to be anything worth shooting anyway. The image is still worth sharing, though. At least to convey the gist of how beautiful it was.


Feeding Blackbird

This is BB1 (Blackbird One) that I’ve befriended. Or, is it me that he has befriended? In any case, I used the old Gopro to film a few minutes of his sunflower seed lunch earlier today. He did look a bit skeptical with the camera so close, but the need for seed was too strong and, so, he obviously overcame his skepticism.


Ice Capades

Here’s a short slideshow with a few more images from last weekend’s frozen waves. Because of fluctuating temperatures, most of those amazing natural ice sculptures have already melted away. I’m fine with that. In fact, I’d be even more okay if it got a little warmer. This long stretch of below zero coldness is causing my already pain-ridden, rusty joints to creak even more. I’d be much better off on a beach in Goa or, Danang.

GOP Skeleton

The GOP Remains

Still don’t know if this is a seal or a porpoise. I’m sure a biologist or an archeologist could tell, but I still see similarities of both animals when I compare skeletons online.

The carcass got me thinking about the Grim Reaper and how bad things are in the US. The divide is wider than ever and there are so many different kinds of acute crisis right now, that the future looks pretty gloomy. Then again, a lot of things look gloomy in February.

The promise of unity that President Biden delivered during his inauguration speech sounded wonderful when I listened to it live. But now, several weeks later, the lasting aftertaste is way too lofty and dreamy. Dreams are fine, but they will not bridge the considerable gap between the tens of millions of Americans that still insist Donald Trump won the election (by a landslide, no less) and an almost equal amount of voters, including myself, that feverishly disagree.

I think the American conservative movement as we know it today is in a death spiral. The party’s “ideology” been on a slippery slope ever since nominating and electing Trump as a mouthpiece and figurehead. What the GOP didn’t count on when they invited him to take the reins was that his pseudo-patriotism, a.k.a. MAGA movement, would create a tsunami of populist rhetoric that a) drowned out even the most measured Republicans and b) provided giant swaths of nincompoops with a wave of craziness they could own and surf on.

I’m wary that a lot of folks eventually turn conservative with age. Particularly men tend to become anti-almost-all-change sourpusses. I’ve already noticed this sad trait in myself. For example, I find very little contemporary music appealing and easily fall back into old trusted favorites instead of embracing new artists and new tunes. To at least partially remedy this, I force myself to listen to contemporary hit lists once in a while, fortunately with my 20-year old daughter Elle as “Curator Extraordinaire”.

If you work within the liberal arts, be that as a poet, painter or photographer, I think you owe it to your craft and creative soul to stave off the kind of conservatism that might otherwise transform you into a curmudgeon, a crusty, rusty crank.

I think that the otherwise reasonable conservatives that embraced Donald Trump for four years are slowly coming to their senses. Many have stopped defending the insurrection and protection of one of his biggest fans, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the supporter of far-right conspiracy theories that include laser beams from outer space, Pizzagate, QAnon, and, a revisionist view of 9/11. Marjorie says some unbelievably crazy shit. But it’s not that she believes any of it. Mrs. Greene just knows that it fires up the “ol’ Trump base”. Which is the very tactic that got the GOP in trouble in the first place.

I predict the Republican party splits into two separate fractions before the next mid-term elections. One with the loonies, the other with the shameful and regretful.


The Dachshund Lennart’s Winter Walk in Vejbystrand

While daughter Elle was here over the weekend, we took several walks along the beach here in Vejystrand. The cold albeit beautiful winter weather demands to be enjoyed and as long as he had his little down vest on, even Lennart appreciated the stroll.

Frozen Waves

Frozen Waves

Captured this other-worldly scene yesterday evening not more than 200m from where these words are typed. The continued freeze has now frozen the shoreline and at some point, in the midst of shallows wave hitting the rocks, the brackish water froze in an eerily suspended animated state. Shot with the Fujifilm x100v which I am enjoying shooting with more and more.

The frozen wave immediately reminded me of Ridley Scott’s film Alien from 1979, just before the embryonic pupal, which had undergone its first metamorphosis in the belly of the alien spaceship, becomes the face-hugger creature.

This cold and relatively high humidity of Vejbystrand right now reminds me of the seasons I spent in Riksgränsen, also relatively near the North Atlantic, where Arctic temperatures and similar humidity ruled the day from the time I arrived in mid-January to at least the end of March.

ice formations

Shapes, Cracks and Shards

Who would have thought that the winter of 2021 would be so cold and snowy? With the past week’s unusually calm weather and cold temperatures, even the saltwater is freezing. Though slippery, I try to walk as close to the shoreline as possible where interesting ice formations are wating to be discovered.

Blackbird Vejbystrand

Friends with The Blackbirds

Here’s one of our Blackbirds from this morning’s seed feed sessions. Not sure which of the two males that live in the garden this is. One is super shy and the other is outgoing. I can literally invite the extrovert into the hallway or the kitchen and he’ll walk right in and give me this demanding look as if to say, Dude! Where’re My Seeds?

Blackbirds can apparently live for 16 to 20 years in the wild. That’s a respectable age for a small bird, I think. The record for the longest-lived wild bird, the Laysan Albatross, is a whopping 50 years (and some change). Which is just half of Fred, the world’s oldest cockatoo at over 100.

Am I slowly becoming a birdie?

Pasoli Wok

Papa’s Got A New Wok & The Praise of Veggies

This shot is from a Pad Thai with marinated tofu and a ton of veggies that I made the other night. While not all the ingredients were grown locally or even organic, the green stuff is winter kale, which grows fervently in the garden here in Vejbystrand.

Whenever I hear about kids that don’t like vegetables, I wonder about what their parents are doing (or, not doing) in the kitchen to create such prejudice. I can’t remember not loving vegetables. Which, considering that during most of my childhood in the US I ate sugary cereals, junk food, and nuked TV dinners, is pretty amazing. Carrots in particular are among my favorite organic chews. But as of this writing, I can’t think of a single vegetable that I don’t like.

Can there be a more versatile ingredient than vegetables? Doubt it. Clearly, the transition from a hardcore carnivore/omnivore menu to a primarily herbivore’s diet, some six years ago, wasn’t all that difficult to make for me. And I am really happy about my new hand-crafted Pasoli steel wok. Pre-fired and ready to go when it got here via Amazon. Waiting for a glass lid to arrive any day now. Read about Oli and Pascal of Pasoli here.

myanmar

Myanmar Coup: Aung San Suu Kyi Detained

This is the very last photo from our trip to Myanmar nine years ago. We were there on a weeklong assignment to research and photograph for a travel guide. Things had started looking promising for the country and Aung San Suu Kyi was sharing at least (theoretically) some of the power with the military junta. It felt okay to visit. We experienced a half dozen beautiful locations and always felt safe and secure. Well, at least when we weren’t flying on the domestic airline Air KBZ, which at the time was a bit sketchy.

I’m not sure if Charlotte or one of the Buddhist nuns took the above group photo. Nor do I know why one sock is so much higher than the other. What I distinctly recall is that everybody we met throughout the country was friendly and hospitable.

My first visit to Asia was in 1988 when I spent six months in the south of Thailand. Since then I’ve always benchmarked other nations from those experiences. Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos have a lot in common with Thailand, especially culturally and I’ve never been chagrined during any of my visits to those countries either. I really liked Vietnam, but it’s so totally different than the rest of former Indochina.

Some would argue that several of the nations in South East Asia, as well as China, could use a nice big injection of democracy. That it’s time to retire autocracy and totalitarianism. Political oppression and military rule are not fitting for a people who in general are among the kindest and friendliest I’ve had the pleasure of encountering.

So I certainly don’t condone nor justify the Myanmarese regime’s recent power grab and declaration of a state of emergency. But it’s also hard to see beyond how Aung San Suu Kyi’s pseudo-democratic government neglects the persecution of the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority.

Whenever I read about Aung San Suu Kyi, I remind myself that she comes from a family of extreme privilege and is one of a number of people in the region who are the sons or daughters or widows of leaders and at least to a degree, ride on the shiny coattails of their fathers or spouses. I’m definitely not saying that Aung San Suu Kyi still couldn’t be a really great leader and lift her country and compatriots to new heights and help Myanmar evolve into a democracy.. But her track record thus far has been lackluster and disappointing. So, perhaps it’s also time for Aung San Suu Kyi to retire her dynastic ambitions.

blackbirds

The Blackbirds

I can for sure appreciate the beauty of all kinds of birds, but I am by no means a birdie. Saw these tracks the other day out on the meadow. No idea what type of bird made them, where it was going or, even if there were more than one. Not much of a tracker, am I.

I do feed two Blackbirds almost every day with organic sunflower seeds imported from Germany (of all places). I want to imagine that I’m helping them survive this year’s unusually cold and snowy winter. It’s gone so far now that all I have to do is crack the kitchen door open a little and gently whistle a few times and at least one of them shows up within seconds, landing a few feet away from me. The short distance is a tell-tale sign that the Blackbirdies don’t see me as a threat. but as a meal ticket.

Here’s one of my favorite takes on Blackbirds.

Freeway at Los Angeles International Airport

L.A. vs Writer’s Blockade

Finding it hard to write right now. Not just because of my physical restraints. A paragraph here and then… I drift and allow myself to get distracted. As the Swedish idiom goes, I have far too many strings to play on my creative lyre. Though alternating between them has always been how I get through the “valley of the doldrums”, I am increasingly suspicious that there is a level of procrastination involved. The challenging and also considerably more self-important, self-assigned project of writing episodes from my early history in Los Angeles is hard, hard, hard. I don’t have writer’s block. I have writer’s blockade (to quote New York humorist Fran Liebowitz).

There could be a third explanation.

As a freelance artist, where photography, filmmaking, and painting have been my foremost mediums, there has always been a demand to deliver whatever my clients have ordered in a timely fashion. My creative outpouring has, therefore, at least to a degree, been shaped by my ability to not only identify and theorize about a solution to a problem but to also execute and fulfill my client’s expectations by supplying them with something substantive.

I think this is part of why I find writing long-form so challenging. The end is nowhere in sight and so, from time to time, I feel an urge to create something that will see the light of day within a reasonable timeframe. Like this blog post…

Photo: an early morning by a freeway underpass near Los Angeles International Airport.


Travel Lust 2021

It took some time, but here’s a collage of places I’ve had the privilege of visiting in recent years. In my creative calling and line of work, the boundary between work and pleasure is essentially invisible. Most of my days, regardless of where I spend them, in Vejbystrand, on the streets of Tokyo or discovering hidden gems in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, I’m constantly looking for interesting scenes to film or photograph. While the shortcomings of my vision don’t always allow me to clearly perceive what I have in front of me, the camera never, ever lies.

Not being able to travel right now is fine. I have come to terms with it. My body needs the rest. But that’s not stopping my mind from its chronic wanderlust. And so, I felt the need to sift through my travels and put this little film together and publish it online. Watching reminds me of how wonderfully diverse a planet we live on. Which is humbling.

lily flower

Flower at Jim’s

Though I can surely tell you if a rose is a rose and a sunflower is a sunflower, I’m not a botanist by any stretch of the imagination. The floral world is just too big for me and I’m already spreading myself thinly across several different fields of interest.

From a quick cross-reference of the above flower via Google’s collection of flowers, I’m fairly convinced it’s a lily of some flavor. I shot it about a year ago at Jim Thompson’s House in Bangkok.

Telephone Kockums Industries

Connecting

Saw this small phone booth during a visit to a derelict factory in Malmö called Kockums Industries. They made everything from cast iron stoves to submarines and gigantic cargo ships there. The phone is yet another one of my homages to Duchamp’s still wonderfully provocative “readymade” approach to everyday objects as (meta) art.

Who was the last person to use the phone before it was pulled from the network? What was the final word spoken through it? Who designed it and what was the process like? How long did the cord need to be?

I chose this image as a symbol of connectivity. See, I’ve recently linked with a few choice relatives on my father’s side of the family. Though I’ve heard their names mentioned from time to time, most are entirely new acquaintances. Very exciting to learn more about a part of my family that I’ve ignored/neglected/distanced myself from. Why? Probably to avoid what I assumed would be a lot of emotional wear and tear. But I don’t feel nearly as fraught with gloom or filled with wrath as I had foreseen. Instead, I’ve tried to take a neutral approach.

I’m more of an amateur social anthropologist, piecing together characters, anecdotes, timelines, and plot twists and by doing so, hopefully creating a less fragmented, distorted image of my father; who he was as an individual and why he did so much weird shit.

Ultimately, as usual in my life, I want to see if I can find the silver lining and once and for all shake off the shadow of a man I never knew. This in order to get to know myself better, to learn to accept myself better. To feel better.

Chamonix Train Station

Retouching & Fixing: Chamonix Train Station
Speaking of Eurail train travel…here’s a project from 2018 where I retouched the train station at Chamonix which was under renovation and busy with all kinds of stuff and distractions when I got there. Retouching is becoming increasingly difficult, but I still feel compelled to challenge myself creatively with this type of work. At least once in a while.

Nice in Nice

It was here, at the beginning of July of 1983, while on my first European solo backpacking trip, after an uneventful night in Marseille together with my newfound friends from Denmark and Canada, that I slept on the beach Plage Publique des Ponchettes in Nice.

Of all the places I’ve been fortunate to have visited in France (and I sincerely hope to expand that roster in the years ahead), Nice is among my favorites. Elle, Charlotte, and I spent a couple of days in Nice 2016 on our way back from the annual Photo Festival held throughout the ancient city of Arles in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of southern France.